The great canyon

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One last change of scenery on our travels through Namibia, this time it was to see the semi arid dessert fade away and the ground open up to one of the largest canyons in the world.  Not as big as the Grand Canyon but certainly impressive.  For those hungry for stats: 160km in length, 27km in width, 550m in depth in the inner canyon…and at 7am in the morning we were the only people to be seen anywhere from the main view point. 

 

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Looking for diamonds in the ghost town

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Turning back to the coast again, we headed back to the sand dunes but this time not looking to climb them and sand board down them, but in search of diamonds in the desert.  We spent a couple of hours looking around the deserted town of Kolmanskop which is right next to a diamond mine. They seriously tell you not to try and look for diamonds, not to take anything from the site, and not to try to fool security by pretending to tie your shoe laces while picking up some sparkling jewels from the sand.

Anyone for a sandy bath

This deserted town was, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, a fully functioning diamond town where people came in search of their fortune.  It was the first place on the coast where diamonds were discovered, and many mines still operate today. 

It is hard to believe that in the middle of the desert, in complete isolation, there was a hospital, school, bakery, butchery, shop, dining & entertainment hall and even a bowling alley!  

 

 

 

And to Waldu’s delight, the engineer got his own big house!  Each building still stands, with only minor restoration works done to some of the interiors, but slowly the town is getting gobbled up by the sand.

 
 

The ghost town is just outside Aus

From Solitaire to Sossusvlei

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We turned inland again, back to the desert plains.  After a stop off in Solitaire (one hotel, one petrol station and one bakery) to eat some of Moose’s world famous apple strudel (it was delicious), we turned south and headed to the eastern side of the Namib Naukluft National Park. 

It isn’t a green tree, lions roaring kind of park but rather, it is endless hills of sand dunes including one of the biggest in the world – dune 45.  Like along the coastal boundary of the park, the inland boundary is also home to jackals, ostriches, hyenas, and even leopards.  Hard to believe that any animal can survive out there but remarkably they have learnt to adapt.

After a morning stroll up Sossusvlei dune, we wandered through thick red sand to Deadvlei where dead trees stand as an eerie reminder of how remote and wild this area is. 

Definitely no walking off the between track here! 

While there were other tourists around us, this place certainly felt more like ‘solitaire’ then the tiny town we visited earlier in the day. 

A few hours later we found ourselves pitching our tent on an open plain amongst the Tiras Mountains with not a sole in site. After witnessing a striking sunset darkness soon sunk in, and it was so black that we struggled to even see our hands in front of our face.  Scared?  Us?  No, not at all.  Nic?  Well, just a bit. 

Where the sand (dunes) meets the sea

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Driving into Henties Bay, south end of the Skeleton Coast, was like driving through the desert and then seeing an oasis pop up out of nowhere.  Only this time the oasis was a real town and there was the real Indian Ocean in front of us.  It was a nice change of scenery after two hours of only seeing open, flat desert with a few lonely plants, some ostriches, and the odd passing car. 

After a quick stop for a beachside lunch out of the back of the car (where we actually had to put on spray jackets to keep warm from the cold winds), it was off to Swakopmond where towering sand dunes meet the thundering ocean.  No chance for a swim though, it is usually too cold for swimming, except for some of the locals and the dolphins and seals.  

We pitched the tent for four days of relaxation (and another private toilet and shower block – yippee). 

The four days can best be summarised by saying that we drove around, up and over sand dunes, sand boarded down them, ate oysters and drank champagne on top of them and meet a great bunch of fellow campers to share fresh fish and laughs with.  In other words…sand, seafood, drinks and kuier (socialising).

 

Waldu takes to the slopes, or rather, dunes

 

Almost at the bottom...then it's the long walk back up

 

 

 

A day of love…and remote camping

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Ah, Valentine’s Day.   We set our sights in a southerly direction and, after stopping for a leisurely stroll at an old country town and even a winery, we ended the day at Spitzkoppe (peak heads – sharp peaks/mountains) in Damarland, north west Namibia.

 

Waldu had read about camp site number 8 and luckily for us no one had taken it, so we were able to settle in for a lovely Valentine’s Day feast by candle light, and fire of course, under an overhanging boulder with a mountain of boulders hanging precariously above us.  There were no showers and only one smelly long drop toilet, which was a hike away.  So out came the pop up shower and, seldom used, fold out toilet.  The whole think doesn’t sound very safe or romantic, but trust us, it was.

The next day we packed up, ready to head to the coast, but first we decided to join a local bushman (native to Namibia) for a hike, literally, up the mountain to see some original bushman paintings that were hundreds of years old, and learn about the history of the native men who speak a language comprising English sounds that are prefaced with a clicking sound (up to 7 in some dialects).  

Bushman paintings used to communicate with other groups

 Then we packed the car, waved to a few passing locals in carts pulled by donkeys and hit the dirt road again, setting the GPS for the west coast of Namibia.

Wilderness to waterlessness

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Leaving the wilderness of Etosha in the north we drove through some pretty remote and basic towns, visited a petrified (wood) forest, ate lunch in a dry river bed, and entered the remote area of Twyfelfontein only to find that the campsites were under renovation…ok, there was one community camp available but Waldu’s horror stories about desert elephants searching the dry river beds for water, put Nic right off (as did the look of the place).

Waldu sitting on a petrified log

So we set the GPS for ‘White Lady Lodge’ in Brandberg, and fast tracked a night to what was supposed to be a couple of days of checking out local sites like the white lady rock engraving and the burnt mountains.  After driving down some of the most remote and tweespoorpadjie (smallest) roads we have seen in Namibia, The Beast came to an abrupt stop at a dry wide river crossing and the GPS beeped constantly “watch for flash flooding/elephants”. The sand looked thick, but Waldu thought it looked inviting and was up for the challenge unlike Nic.

At 8pm, after much discussion including comments like “You said to my Mum that you wouldn’t put us in danger – I hope we don’t get stuck and an elephant stomp on us”  (no need to say who made that comment), Waldu let some air out of the tyres, and we closed our eyes and hoped for the best.  Fortunately we made it through and travelled over some more very remote roads to arrive at our destination, only to hear that we did indeed take the road less travelled to get there.

A country of extremes

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Namibia is such a diverse country that summing it all up in one blog entry doesn’t seem to come close to highlighting the extreme conditions that can be witnessed.  So we’ve tried however, to sum up in some words and photos over a few blog entries some of the extremes – wilderness, semi arid deserts, rocky outcrops, sand and sea, sandy isolated deserts and one great canyon.  And yes, Namibia has been one of our favourite spots to visit in Africa (aside from South Africa that is).

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